Researchers seek people’s thoughts about biodiversity

Published 21 March 2011

methuen_robynResearchers at the University of New England are taking a fresh, multi-disciplinary approach to the investigation of biodiversity on the Northern Tablelands.

The researchers aim to document residents’ understanding of – and concerns about – biodiversity in their communities, and what actions, if any, they are taking to address potential threats.

“The UNE team consists of both environmental and behavioural researchers, representing a truly multi-disciplinary approach for understanding potential threats to biodiversity in the region,” said psychology professor Don Hine, a member of the research team.

“The New England Tablelands is a good area to study, as it’s quite small in area when compared to other bioregions in Australia, and yet it has such a unique biodiversity,” Professor Hine said. “We want to see what people think about the areas of biodiversity in the New England Tablelands region, and particularly those left in urban areas.”

“Previous researchers have found that if people have regular contact with nature, they value nature more,” said Dr Robyn Bartel, an environmental geographer from the UNE’s School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences. “The research findings will tell us a lot about how the biodiversity around us might best be managed in the future.”

The project also involves monitoring the effectiveness of several biodiversity enhancement initiatives currently taking place in the area. According to Dr. Darren Ryder, the team leader of the waterway restoration monitoring part of the project, “the ecological success of stream restoration is seldom assessed, especially for our regional streams that have agricultural and urban impacts”.

“We’re measuring water quality, water bugs and wetland plants to determine the success of current restoration works in local creeks,” Dr Ryder said. “The results will help promote the wise use of resources by developing the best methods for successful restoration in our regional waterways.”

The researchers are encouraging residents in Armidale, Guyra, Uralla and Walcha to complete a short questionnaire about their biodiversity-related values, beliefs and behaviours.  An online version of the questionnaire can be accessed at http://www.tinyurl.com/unebiodiversity.  Hard copies of the questionnaire can be requested from the project’s coordinator, Methuen Morgan, at mmorgan5@une.edu.au or 6773 2899.  All individuals who complete the questionnaire will be entered into a draw for an iPad version 2.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed above shows the coordinator of the project, Methuen Morgan, with Dr Robyn Bartel.